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Interpersonal Violence Prevention Considerations for Sexual Minority College Students: Lower Campus Connection, Worse Perceptions of Institutional Support, and more Accurate Understandings of Sexual Consent

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Abstract

While research has established that sexual minority college students are at increased risk for sexual violence and dating violence, less research has explored their attitudes and beliefs related to bystander self-efficacy, perceptions of institutional support, connectedness to the university, or understandings of sexual consent. These attitudes and beliefs are central to violence prevention and intervention programming and are well-researched among heterosexual students. Minority stress theory suggests that sexual minority people may have different attitudes and beliefs about violence due to these experiences with discrimination. The purpose of this investigation was to explore the relationship between victimization, minority stressors, and sexual identity on bystander self-efficacy, perceptions of institutional support, connectedness to the university, and understandings of sexual consent. Using a subsample of the 2016 Multi-College Bystander Efficacy Evaluation data from one university, data from 542 students were analyzed (271 sexual minority students and 271 randomly selected heterosexual students). Regressions indicated that sexual minority students, compared to heterosexual students, had lower feelings of connectedness to the college, less favorable perceptions of institutional support, and more accurate understandings of sexual consent. Victims of sexual assault had more accurate understandings of sexual consent, but this was not a significant predictor of college connectedness or perceptions of institutional support. These findings suggest a need for tailored prevention and intervention programs that address the specific needs of sexual minority students.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Campus Advocates for Prevention Professional Association for their valuable input related to practice implications.

REDCap

Study data were collected and managed using REDCap electronic data capture tools hosted at the University of Kentucky. The project described was supported by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through grant number UL1TR001998. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Funding

Research was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cooperative Agreement U01 CE002668. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a supervisory role in the design and conduct of the study but had no direct role in the collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of the data; the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; or the decision to submit the manuscript for publications. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Correspondence to Annelise Mennicke.

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Appendix 1. Survey items

Appendix 1. Survey items

Victimization

Sexual Harassment

Since Fall 2015 while you were a student at [university name], how many times has a student OR someone employed by or otherwise associated with [university]:

1. Made sexual remarks or told jokes or stories that were insulting or offensive so that it limited your performance, participation in programs, or created an uncomfortable environment?

2. Made inappropriate or offensive comments about your or someone else’s body appearance or sexual activities so that it limited your performance, participation in programs, or created an uncomfortable environment?

3. Emailed, texted, tweeted, phoned, or instant messaged offensive sexual remarks, jokes, stories, pictures or videos to you that you did not want so that it limited your performance, participation in programs, or created an uncomfortable environment?

Dating violence

Since Fall 2015, while you were a student at [university name] how may times has a partner or spouse:

1. Checked up on you by following you, invading your privacy by reading private messages or listening in on calls that were NOT done in a joking or playful manner?

2. Controlled or tried to control you? Examples could be when someone:

- Kept you from going to classes or pursuing your educational goals.

- Did not allow you to see or talk with friends or family.

- Made decisions for you such as where you go or what you wear or eat

-Threatened to “out” you to others

3. Threatened to physically harm you, someone you love, or themselves?

4. Used any kind of physical force against you? Examples could be when someone:

- Bent your fingers or bit you.

- Choked, slapped, punched or kicked you. - Hit you with something other than a fist.

- Attacked you with a weapon, or otherwise physically hurt or injured you

Stalking

The next questions ask about instances where someone behaved in a way that made you afraid for your personal safety. Since Fall 2015 while you were a student at [university name] how many times has a student or someone employed by or otherwise associated with [university name]:

1. Made unwanted phone calls, sent emails, voice, text or instant messages, or posted messages, picture or videos on social networking sites in a way that made you afraid for your personal safety?

2. Showed up somewhere or waited for you when you did not want that person to be there in a way that made you afraid for your personal safety?

3. Spied on, watched or followed you, either in person or using devices or software in a way that made you afraid for your personal safety?

4. Did another frightening, threatening, or damaging behavior on purpose that made you afraid for your safety? For example:

- Made mysterious, obscene, anonymous calls

- Yelled or screamed at you in public

- Harassed you in aspects of your life, such as cancelling your credit cards, reporting you to police, telling lies to professors/friends/family

-Left bizarre or scary objects/fights for you to find

-Damaged or harmed items belonging to you, including pets

-Threatened to harm property of yours or your family/friends

-Threatened or attempted to physically harm you, your family/friends

-Threatened to harm themselves

Sexual Violence

These questions ask about incidents that involved force or threats of force against you. Force could include someone holding you down with her or her body weight pinning your arms, hitting or kicking you, or using or threatening to use a weapon against you.

5. Since Fall 2015 while you were a student at [university name] has someone used physical force or threats of physical force to make you do the following:

- Sexual penetration: when one person puts a penis, fingers or objects inside someone else’s vagina or anus or

- Oral sex: When someone’s mouth or tongue makes contact with someone else’s genitals

6. Since Fall 2015 while you were a student at [university name] has someone used physical force or threats of physical force in an UNSUCCESSFUL attempt to make you do the following:

- Sexual penetration: when one person puts a penis, fingers or objects inside someone else’s vagina or anus or

- Oral sex: When someone’s mouth or tongue makes contact with someone else’s genitals

The next questions ask about incidents when you were unable to consent or stop what was happening because you were passed out, asleep, or incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol. Please include incidents even if you are not sure what happened.

7. Since Fall 2015 while you were a student at [university name] have either of the following happened to you while you were unable to consent or stop what was happening because you were passed out, asleep or incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol:

- Sexual penetration: when one person puts a penis, fingers or objects inside someone else’s vagina or anus or

- Oral sex: When someone’s mouth or tongue makes contact with someone else’s genitals

The next questions ask about incidents when someone may have coerced you by threatening serious non-physical harm or promising rewards.

8. Since Fall 2015 while you have been attending [university name], has someone had contact with you involving penetration or oral sex by threatening serious non-physical harm or promising rewards such that you felt you must comply?

(Examples include:

-Threatening to give you bad grades or cause you trouble at work

-Promising you a good grade or promotion at work

-Threatening to share damaging information about you with your family, friends, or authority figures

-Threatening to post damaging information about you online)

9. Since Fall 2015 while you have been attending [university name], has someone had contact with you involving penetration or oral sex without your active, ongoing voluntary agreement?

(Examples include:

-Initiating sexual activity despite your refusal

-Ignoring your cues to stop or slow down

-Went ahead without checking in or while you were still deciding

-Otherwise failed to obtain your consent

Sexual-minority based discrimination

Since Fall 2015 while you were a student at [university name], how many times has a student OR someone employed by or otherwise associated with [university]:

1. Harassed, insulted, threatened, or intimidated you because they thought you might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?

2. Physically hurt you (including forced sex) because they thought you might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?

Bystander Self-Efficacy

This section asks your opinion about sexual violence and dating violence. Thinking about your own feelings and beliefs, please indicate how much your personally agree or disagree with each statement. There are no right or wrong responses. How much do you agree or disagree with whether each statement describes you?

1. I am able to recognize a situation that might become violent

2. I can make a difference in reducing dating violence or sexual violence at [university name]

3. I have the skills to help prevent dating violence or sexual violence at [university name]

4. I am able to help if I see a situation where someone might be taken advantage of sexually

5. I have personally been affected by dating violence or sexual violence, because it happened to me or someone I know

Institutional Support

Sexual misconduct refers to physical contact or non-physical contact of a sexual nature in the absence of clear, knowing and voluntary consent. Examples include sexual or gender-based harassment, stalking, dating violence, and sexual violence. The following statements describe how [university name] might handle it if a student reported an incident of sexual misconduct. Using the scale provided, please indicate the likelihood of each statement.

1. [University name] would support the person making the report.

2. [University name] would support the person accused.

3. [University name] would provide accommodations to support the person making the report. For example, make changes in academic schedules, housing or other safety accommodations.

4. [University name] would take action to address factors that may have led to the sexual misconduct.

5. [University name] would label the person making the report a trouble maker

6. If the person accused of sexual misconduct was a [University name] athlete, [University name]would not take the case seriously

7. If the person accused of sexual misconduct was in a high status or otherwise powerful fraternity, [University name]would not take the case seriously

8. If the person accused of sexual misconduct was in a position of power or authority (for example a faculty member, coach, administrator or police), [University name]would not take the case seriously

9. If the person accusing someone of sexual misconduct was from a wealthy or politically connected family, [University name]would take the case more seriously.

Understandings of Sexual Consent

How much do you agree or disagree with each statement?

1. Both people should make sure that the other person clearly agrees to have sex.

2. Even if some sexual activity has started, either person has the right to change their mind and stop.

3. If someone agrees to have one type of sex it is OK to assume they have agreed to other forms of sex

5. If you have had sex with someone in the past, you can assume that they have agreed to have sex with you now

5. If someone seems interested in you sexually, but then becomes so drunk or high that they can’t talk to you, it is not okay to have sex with them.

College Connection

How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

1. I feel close to people at this university

2. I am happy to be at this university

3. I feel like I am a part of this university

4. The teachers at this university treat students fairly

5. I feel safe at my university

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Mennicke, A., Geiger, E. & Brewster, M. Interpersonal Violence Prevention Considerations for Sexual Minority College Students: Lower Campus Connection, Worse Perceptions of Institutional Support, and more Accurate Understandings of Sexual Consent. J Fam Viol 35, 589–601 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-019-00089-5

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